McElwain Notebook: Gators ready for bad weather

Tropical Storm Hermine is supposed to be well past Gainesville at game time on Saturday night as the Florida Gators host UMass to start the season. Outside of them moving the game for some unknown reason, head coach Jim McElwain says they are ready for bad weather if it happens with the way they have practiced.

McElwain said overall it has been a good week of practice as they prepare for UMass except for today (Wednesday).

“Monday and Tuesday we had really good practices,” said Florida’s head coach who is about to embark on his second season at the helm of the program. “Obviously we were a little ahead in preparation just because normally for a first game we start a little bit toward the end of the week (last week). You could see the carryover.

“Today was just okay… third down and red area, we have to get back and make sure to screw down the plan a little bit. Make sure it’s ready to go and our guys get it. “

This time of the preseason is all about fine tuning the play of each individual, something they are pressing the guys on.

“Really moving forward here we kind of talk to our guys on understanding that the responsibility to really go and dig into the details of what we’re doing. Number one, knowing your opponent. Number two, so you are able to get out and play confident and play fast.

“That’s what we’re going to do Saturday night in The Swamp.”

The Gulf of Mexico is home to a foe that Gator fans re quite familiar with during this time of year. Many a game in the last 12 years has been moved or cancelled because of storms. Tropical Storm Hermine has been steady bringing rainfall and overall bad weather to town and the unpredictability of the path means there could be some bad weather and rainfall at game time.

McElwain says his guys are prepared for such a scenario.

“You guys probably remember a couple of practices we had at (the Lacrosse field) and it was pouring down and raining sideways, you were wondering what we were doing. But, if something should happen our guys would kind of have had the opportunity know what it is to play in the elements. I just hope The Swamp drains as well as Lacrosse does, that field is unbelievable over there.

“(We’re) trying to prepare for what’s out there, and yet that’s something that isn’t in our control. We’ll be prepared, one way or another.”


The Injury Front

The Gators have lost a couple of players to season ending injuries in junior offensive guard Antonio Riles and freshman cornerback C.J. McWilliams. Freshman safety Quincy Lenton will miss several weeks recovering from a broken foot. Redshirt freshman receiver Kalif Jackson is banged up and his return is uncertain. Other that and outside of suspensions of five players, the Gators were pretty healthy until a couple of guys were injured today and their status for further practice or play is yet unknown.

We’re doing pretty well, but (sophomore defensive tackle) Khairi Clark went down today with an ankle. (Senior defensive end Bryan Cox) pulled himself out. He should be okay. (Junior receiver) C.J. Worton will not go, he will not dress. He tried a little bit and couldn’t get through it.

“Other than that, it looks like we’re in pretty good shape. We’ll be ready to roll come Saturday.”


McElwain thinks his kicker is ready to go…

When we talk about kicker, we often talk about their range. Truth be told, the range of a kicker can vary based on a lot of things, one of those being weather. So a coach may ask his kicker to try and hit one from 42 in one game, where depending on conditions that number could rise or fall. With the weather a big question mark on Saturday, they will measure things up before the first kick for new kicking arrival Eddy Pineiro.

“That’s one of the things we also do in pregame,” McElwain said. “Determine whether we’re kicking towards the tunnel or away from the tunnel as to what we feel the yard line is. It helps you call plays.

“Right now I’m not going to hesitate with the ball around the 30 or 35 (47 -52 yarder) at all, depending on how he’s hitting it in pregame.  That’s when we kind of determine what we call the kick line. We do the same thing by watching their kicker. Obviously they have a new one so last year’s stuff doesn’t do us any good. We’ll try and get a bead on it during pregame and know where their kick line is too. But, I’ve got total confidence in him.”


Team is ready to start the season…

Fall practice is a long grind. There is a point in time where they just need to play someone else. The working to get everything right starts to fade because of the monotony of the month. This team can now taste the season ready to start and so now

 “It’s kind of one of those deals where it was good (today at practice),” he said. “Our assignments were good. As a coach, you always want to be a little crisper and, yet, we’re at that point now where it’s been a long time where we left the field with a really bad taste… really bad. It’s time to go play.”

 McElwain said his team is ready and prepared to have a good game on Saturday.

"Any time you have the opportunity to go out and compete, No. 1… and in this case, No. 2, where any time there's a winner and a loser determined, it doesn't matter what you do, you go out to win,” he said. “It doesn't matter the opponent. Our focus has been pretty good about no matter what it is or who it is, it doesn't matter. It all comes back to how we play. All first games, there will be some things here and there where you'll kind of scratch your head and go, 'Boy, that was a good one.' But the key is what you learn from it."


Mystery suspension?

McElwain announced on Monday that there was a senior suspended, but has yet to name who that is. When prodded on why he wouldn’t name the suspended player, he was pretty adamant about what his responsibility as a leader of these young men is.

"You know what, I'm here to educate, I'm here to help and I'm here for our players, McElwain said. “First and foremost… these are good players and good guys that sometimes make choices that aren't the greatest… I'm here for them and learning from our choices and the decisions we make. That's really what it's all about, and sometime when you have your own kids, I'm here to protect them too. And they're kids. So, you know what, they're good kids that sometimes some of the things we do, maybe we're not real proud of. And we've got to learn. It's no different than when you were a kid and you touched the hot stove. My guess is you didn't go back and touch it again. You probably learned from it, right? So there's your reason. And these are good players and good kids, and they mean well. Don't ever forget that as we write the negative all the time."


Extra work for the young tight ends…

Sophomore tight end Cyontai Lewis will miss the game to suspension and junior tight end DeAndre Goolsby will be limited as he is somewhat injured. That leaves extra time on the field for sophomores Moral Stephens and Camrin Knight to try and make an impression early in the season.

"Yeah and he's doing OK,” McElwain said of Goolsby. “But I'm really looking forward to Moral and Cam seeing a lot of reps and I'm really excited about that. Those two guys deserve it the way they've been practicing."

"I think not only them, but you can say that for a lot of players that can see as you're going through your game plan the parts that they're going to be offensively and defensively in the plan. Guys are eager for the first time they play significant snaps, which is kind of fun to see. That kind of uplifts practice a little bit at times."

One of those youngsters is freshman defensive end Jachai Polite who was listed on the depth chart on Monday and has a chance to play early.

 "Jachai, that guy's a good football player,” said McElwain. “He's very smart, very intelligent and he picked it up quickly. Obviously, as you guys see him walk by, size wise, he fits what you're looking for and he's really a good athlete. He played both ways. He was a really good basketball player in high school as well. He's a rising star for us as the program goes forward.”



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